Lockheed partnership brings space-based 5G network another step closer

Lockheed Martin's new partnership with satellite startup Omnispace is another step closer to its vision to make "5G.mil" a reality for its defense customers.

Almost immediately upon taking the job last year, Lockheed Martin CEO Jim Taiclet began articulating a new strategy and vision for connecting U.S. military personnel and systems around the world via more advanced networks.

That also means partnering with companies whose technologies and approaches can help make that “5G.mil” vision a reality.

A new example announced Tuesday will see Lockheed and commercial satellite startup Omnispace collaborate on developing 5G capabilities in space under a strategic interest agreement. There is no financial aspect to it from either side.

Lockheed and Omnispace see a space-based 5G global network as letting users switch between satellite and terrestrial networks, which would potentially remove the need for multiple devices to use on different networks. That future network would be for both government and commercial use.

"Ultimately, it's about empowering end users with low latency connections that work anywhere. This step forward has the potential to upend space-based mobility,” Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed’s space segment, said in a release.

For Omnispace, that company’s vision is to combine the reach of a non-geostationary orbit satellite constellation with the capacity of the world's largest mobile wireless carrier networks.

"We welcome Lockheed Martin's holistic approach to complex systems and deep expertise in satellite technology and government markets, along with their commitment to creating innovative communication solutions,” Omnispace CEO Ram Viswanathan added.

Intelsat is an investor in Omnispace alongside other financial sponsors. Omnispace completed a $60 million fundraising round earlier this year led by Fortress Investment Group that also included existing investors Columbia Capital, Greenspring Associates, TDF Ventures and Telcom Ventures.

Partnerships such as this one are one way Lockheed wants "to be a bridge” for bringing more commercial technologies into the world, Taiclet said last year. Making the 5G.mil construct a reality also goes hand-in-hand with how the U.S. military wants incorporate autonomous systems in greater numbers.

"There's a latency benefit, meaning the signaling time in between, transmit and receive, goes from at best maybe between 10 and 50 milliseconds to 2 or 3 milliseconds," Taiclet said at a Baird-hosted investor conference in November.

"The latency and throughput benefits and then the spectrum management and network slicing you can do with 5G actually enable autonomy at scale at one level. They enable burst transmissions with significant multi-gigabit throughput per second."